Tag Archives: social life

Into the Wild

“We’re supposed to be different. Thank goodness.”

I posted these words on my Facebook page yesterday evening along with a quote from Susan Cain’s insightful book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

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In Quiet, Cain explores the differences between introverts and extroverts. In a society that seems to reward the confidence, charm and exuberant energy of extroversion, introverts often feel the need to step up, speak out and pick up the pace just so they too can succeed at life.

In the questionnaire at the beginning of the book, I scored a whopping 18 out of 20. This signifies that I’m more of an introvert. It means that I enjoy my own company. I need space and time alone. I recharge by spending evenings in with a book or a movie. I get energy from walks in nature and lying in the sun. And I like to sit in stillness and reflect on my feelings and the meaning of life.

I’m a thinker and a writer. And I’m sensitive. Sensitive to beauty, music and wonderfully worded pieces of prose. I’m sensitive to energy, people’s moods and violence on the television.

I feel deeply. I get depressed. An act of kindness can bring me to tears. I marvel at the many miracles of the universe. Spirituality is more important to me than material things. I’m passionate about life. But at times I feel like I’m drowning in it.

When I feel intimidated, I shut up. It can take me a while to feel comfortable around new people. On nights out, I’d rather not compete with the loud music and the din of chatty pub-goers. So I don’t. My voice just doesn’t seem to carry. If someone really wants to hear what I have to say, we have to lean in to one another.

However, when I’ve had a drink, none of that matters. Cain likens an alcoholic beverage to a glass of extroversion.

Most people aren’t exclusively introverts or extroverts. I love being around people and I lead a fairly busy social life. I enjoy meeting friends and trying out new hobbies but I much prefer participating in deep conversations with one or two people rather than chatting in large groups.

I recognise the benefits of team playing and brainstorming but I work best alone in a quiet room where I can retreat, silence my phone, and concentrate.

When something is bothering me, I tend to write, meditate, read and think. Then I discuss my problems, one-to-one, with someone I trust.

I end romantic relationships if they’re not right. I’d rather be alone than with someone who doesn’t help me flourish.

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Last night, I watched Into the Wild for the second time. This true story is based on American adventurer Christopher McCandless. At twenty-four, Chris has fulfilled his parents’ dream of getting good grades and going to college. Then, instead of attending Harvard, he burns the remainder of his college fund, cuts up his social security and credit cards, and disappears, without a word, into the wild.

One of the reasons I love this film is because I feel it’s quite balanced in its storytelling. The different characters have different viewpoints, personalities and lifestyles.

We learn of Chris’ perspective on life. He resents the control and expectations of society and his parents. He wants to roam free. He needs to be independent and true to himself. He’s happiest when he’s diving into lakes, climbing mountains, and living off the land.

When he enters Los Angeles, he regards the skyscrapers and city-dwellers with an expression of disappointment and despair. We can almost see his soul dimming as he trudges through the metropolis. He imagines how his life could have been and he doesn’t regret his decision to break away. He can’t even stay one night there.

We also hear his sister’s version of events. She understands Chris’ reasons for abandoning the family. Her parents desperately desire a particular way of life for their son. Their intentions are good. This is the only way they know how to guide and protect him. But they’ve also caused their children a lot of pain. Ultimately, we watch them suffer too.

This movie really got me thinking. Was Chris acting selfishly? Was he foolish and naive? Or was he right to go on his own journey, to figure out his meaning of life, to really live and experience and come to his own conclusions?

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I’ve often felt different. I’ve struggled to fit in. I’ve felt stifled by society and I’ve agonised over the following:

What is being true to yourself? And what is running away? When do you stop living in the clouds and finally conform? When do you “settle down”?

Then there are the shoulds and norms of society. You should be responsible. That’s what being an adult is all about. You need a good job. You can’t live without money. You need your own home. When are you going to find a husband? Will you have enough time for children? For goodness’ sake, you won’t survive without a pension.

I got 525 points in my Leaving Certificate but secondary school may as well have been a battlefield for all the anxiety I experienced. I did well at swimming and athletics but competition didn’t sit well with me. I dropped out of college twice.

Truthfully, the only reason I went back to college as a mature student was because I felt I had to. How else would I become a functioning member of society?

I obtained a First Class Honours degree and received the Sunday World Cup for Best Student of Journalism with a Language. Though proud of my achievements and happy to gain approval from the people I care about, it added to the pressure I felt to do more with my life, to live up to my potential and to succeed.

And I don’t do well under pressure. So instead of applying for jobs in journalism, I threw myself into an alternative world of acupuncture, homeopathy, personal development and spirituality. And I’ve never been happier.

Of course, I still experience paralysing moments of fear. The voices in my head go something like this: What are you doing with your life? Grow up. Be normal.

So I tentatively move forwards with one eye clamped on everybody else in the world who’s doing things the “right” way. I compare, criticise and compete. I alter my behaviour and try to change who I am in the hope that I will prosper. I worry that I’m not adult enough for this big bad world of business and mortgages.

But what does “adult” mean? How “should” a 34-year-old woman live? Why must we all melt into one right way of doing things? We’re not all the same. That much is very clear.

Yes, there’s a reason why most of us follow the well-trodden path in life. There’s safety and security in the tried and tested route. Most people want to see life’s landmarks so they know where they are and what to expect around the corner.

But some of us thrive on change. The unknown excites us. Newness is revitalising. It’s what keeps that spark inside of us alight.

It’s a relief to realise that we don’t have to be the same as one another. We don’t have to compete because we each have unique gifts to bring to the world.

There’s no point trying to do things his way or attempting to be as good as her because you’re not them. You’re you.

Some of us want to climb the career and property ladders all the way to the top. And some of us are quite happy to keep our feet on the ground.

Whether we’re commuting to our permanent jobs, bringing our children to school or backpacking across the globe, we can be fully alive and true to the essence of who we really are.

Whether we’re writing fantasy novels, saving lives, cleaning the streets or designing websites, we can be the people we’re meant to be.

Whether we’re introverted or extroverted or a dollop of one and two tablespoons of the other, we are unique and perfect just as we are.

We’re different and brilliant in our all of our shade and all of our colour. We blend and we clash and we all come together in this stunning masterpiece of humanity.

We may think we know who we are. We stamp ourselves with neat and convenient labels so we can understand and make sense of the world around us. But life changes. We change. We grow and develop and we dip in and out of lots of different attributes and characteristics. Every colour of the rainbow is available to us to try on and see what suits us best.

And whether we’re paying into our pensions or collecting the dole, none of us can really know what to expect next. Nothing is certain.

The weather is unpredictable. And the terrain is constantly changing. We may want to know the exact directions to a predetermined destination. But we are all, in fact, walking into the unknown. We are all on a journey into the wild.

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On the floor

The last time I ventured to the pub was about three months ago with my then boyfriend in the Donegal Gaeltacht, where the most outrageous thing anyone did was speak English. The last time I got drunk was about six months ago with an old college friend, when we had Thai food with our wine and spent the following day blaming the takeaway for the annihilation of our insides (as you do). And I can’t even remember the last time I set foot inside a club. Does watching self-proclaimed guidos fist pump on Jersey Shore count?

And you know how when you haven’t done something in a while, you wonder if you could even remember how to do it? It’s part lack of energy after a recent flu; part rawness after a recent break-up; part fear- I think I’ve put on weight, I don’t have anything nice to wear, I don’t remember how to small-talk; part sense- memories of extreme exhaustion after a 7am finish, a night spent hugging the toilet bowl (it was a night on the tiles all right!), hangovers so bad you rue the day alcohol was discovered. Damn you, rotten fruit! And part downright laziness at the thought of having to choose an outfit, do the hair and makeup, and stand around in heels all night. Effort. I think I’ve developed a mental block.

But after three weekends in a row of calling over to my mam’s for chips and a two-hour sentence of The X Factor, where the most daring thing I did was drink tea after 11pm, I think it’s time I worked on my social life.

I’m told I need to get out there (code for showcase my talents- I have a large chest- in order to date around). But do I really want to find a man in a swirling sea (maybe I shouldn’t have had that last Cuba Libre) of checked shirts and shark-like smiles? It’s dangerous choosing a partner when you’re both sporting beer goggles (Why do they call them beer goggles anyway? Goggles help you see. They should be called beer shades. Because they blot out the light. But I digress. I do that when I try to avoid an issue.)

On the one hand, I’m not bothered with all the pretending that goes on on a night out… fake tan, false eyelashes, concealer… pretending that everything’s funny, pretending that this club doesn’t suck rear end, pretending that you can walk in those heels and that your feet aren’t burning… Plus, I don’t want to get so drunk that I lose the following day (or my mammy’s chips).

On the other hand, I miss dancing to the latest Rihanna number, making an effort with my appearance and being told it’s paid off by a random hottie (even if he is hauled outside by the bouncers three minutes later for being too drunk) and cackling at dirty jokes with a gaggle of mates.

I don’t have to drink too much (famous last words). My eyelashes and tan (or lack thereof- I didn’t have a sun holiday this year, okay?) will be real. And I might wear flats. Who’s with me?

Images: http://myspace-fusion.com/graphics/photography/index.php?page=6; http://willberwillberforce5333.wordpress.com/tag/willber-willberforce/page/159/; http://bahalwan.de/gallery/fashion/MicheleWaldmeyer/

Featured Image: http://2812photography.wordpress.com/2011/08/25/dance-floor/

Singledom: the undiscovered land of the free

To be perfectly honest, I don’t think single life is something to be survived. It’s rather something to embrace. When you’re single, you only have yourself to worry about. You can do what you want when you want. You can sprawl star-shaped across your bed. You can watch reality TV to your heart’s content and never have to compromise. My motto is: You’re better off being single than being in a bad relationship. Some people are so afraid of being alone but you’re never lonelier than lying beside someone who doesn’t care for you or respect you.

Despite my views, I’ve decided to write about how to survive single life because we are conditioned to believe that our lives will not start until we meet “the one”. I believe that we have many “ones” out there. It’s a matter of timing. We’ll meet them when we’re ready and open to it. It’s very important to be in the right head space when you hook up with someone, otherwise you’re going to attract in someone who isn’t good for you.

The movies we’ve been watching since early childhood make meeting that special someone seem like THE most important thing in life. The ending is only satisfactory if the dizzy but adorable heroine and her floppy-haired love interest declare their undying love for each other. Heart felt love songs spout about all-consuming love, soul mates and near death heart ache. Some people think they won’t be happy and their lives won’t properly commence until they meet their future spouses.

And the type of love we’re all searching for is like some form of voluntary disease. We want to lose our appetites and ability to sleep, reason, and function. We want to miss them terribly when they’re not around. To sob into pillows and long-suffering friends’ shoulders when there’s any glitch in this supposedly perfect relationship.

Why can’t the “twin flame” type of love be romanticised? The type of love where you find a wonderful friend, who you’re attracted to, and you live your lives together in content companionship. Where you can both do your own thing and be apart from each other without one of you melting down in jealousy and neediness.

And so, as we sleep walk through our single lives, while desperately seeking our soul mates, here’s how to survive:

1) Be proactive

If you really want to settle down, don’t be fooled by those cheesy romantic comedies. You’re probably not going to lock eyes with your soul mate as you accidentally bump trolleys in Tesco. Stop waiting for it to happen. Get out there and up your chances. Try internet dating, for example. It’s become less of a stigma to become involved in virtual flirtations. Many of us interact more online than in the real world anyway, with the prevalence of Facebook, Twitter and online video games. So, lash up a cute photo of yourself, and present your witty, lovable self to the world of online dating. Don’t worry. I’ve tried it. It’s not full of weirdo geeks and serial killers. Many people simply don’t have the time, energy or lust to go out two or three nights a week any more. And as one guy ranted, “You’re just as likely to meet someone online as you are drunk in a club at 2am”. Even if nothing serious comes of it, you’ll chat to some interesting people, and get a few dates out of it. Another Friend is an example of an Irish dating website.

2) Get word out

Let your friends and work colleagues know that you’re on the market. Not many can resist the challenge of playing match maker. Before you know it, you’ll be invited to many the house party/work do/concert, where, conveniently, you’ll be introduced to “the nicest person ever who just can’t seem to find that special someone”. Snap! Even if you don’t fancy each other, at least your social life will flourish.

3) Nights out

Though we constantly complain about the price of the pint and the local club’s astronomical entrance fee, and the lack of potential in our home towns, a night out seems to do it for a lot of couples. Many’s the long-term pairing meet on the dance floor. Having said that, I don’t think the club scene is ideal. Women go there to find a boyfriend. Men go there to get laid. The men are often drunk and grabby and the women dress provocatively and dance sexilly with their female friends to get the men horny, then bitch when the men just want to sleep with them and don’t take their numbers. The pub scene is much better. It’s that bit more casual and the drunkenness hasn’t yet reached a debilitating level.

Beware- don’t go on nights out purely to find someone. Otherwise, any evening that doesn’t end in a snog/number exchange will be a disappointing waste. Go out with people you have a laugh with, put on your favourite outfit, and get your dance on.

4) Do something different

If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got. So, if you’ve been going to the same club for the last 10 years, and still haven’t met anyone good enough to introduce to the ould pair, stop going there! Try a weekend by the sea and get chatting to some fun-loving surfers. Go skiing. Join a backpacking group around Central America. Camp at a cool festival either in Ireland or some unusual European destination. Try on the Traena festival on a tiny northern Norwegian island for size. Start a hill walking or book club. Take a class in meditation. Log on to a social networking site that specialises in creating a community. Check out Yelp, a review website where you can stretch your writing muscles, participate in hilarious Talk threads, attend fun, free events and meet some interesting new people.

5) Do your own thing

Don’t wait for that mysterious stranger to sidle on side stage for the action to begin. Get a life. Find something you’re passionate about, be it your job, studies, sport, hobby, or all of the above. If you’re busy and enjoying it, you’ll have little time to worry about your non-existent other half. You want to be a whole person first, then you can meet another whole person with whom you can start a relationship. Relationships based on neediness are a recipe for disaster. As someone pointed out to me, “A half multiplied by a half equals a quarter.” If you both enter into love expecting the other person to complete you, expect mayhem.

6) Live it up!

It’s usually when I’m single or just out of a relationship that I learn most about myself and take a huge leap forward. When you’re unattached, you have time to take up Tai Chi, go for long walks by the river, hang out with mates and laugh ’til you cry. You can book that trip to China. Enjoy girlie chats or nights out with the lads. Follow that exercise regime/new diet. Get a makeover. Watch The Notebook for the forty-fifth time. Flirt your ass of with every cutie in the club. Go on dates.

Just make the most of it and enjoy it, because when you’re (finally) part of a couple, you may not have as much time or leeway to do all these fun and spontaneous things. You’ll even find yourself getting jealous of your single mates’ escapades. Grass is always greener…